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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3826, Electricity Security and Affordability Act, and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4118, Suspending the Individual Mandate Penalty Law Equals Fairness Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Well, I want to come to the floor to wish the Republicans a happy anniversary. I brought a gold ring. This is the 50th repeal of ObamaCare. I want to wish my colleagues a happy 50th anniversary for the appeal of ObamaCare.

Like any marriage that lasts 50 years, it takes a lot of work. The American people have shown that they want this marriage to last. They have shown that by reelecting Barack Obama as President. They have shown that by electing a Senate that won't even consider a repeal of the Affordable Care Act; but also like any marriage, it takes work along the way to improve it, to work at it, to make changes to it.

Democrats stand ready to work with President Obama, to fine-tune this wonderful marriage celebrating the 50th anniversary of its repeal here today, to make sure it endures for another 50 repeal votes by the House Republicans here in the coming months. We are ready to make the changes that we need to, to ensure that the Affordable Care Act works for every American.

There are issues in the implementation in my district. Two of my counties, Summit and Eagle County, have among the highest insurance rates in the exchange in the entire country, these two counties. That is due to a problem that the State had in implementing it, but we would love to work with Republicans on a Federal fix for Eagle and Summit County, and the other Colorado counties that are affected by it.

I would be proud to work with my colleagues to replace the revenue and the medical and device tax with other sources of revenue to ensure that the Affordable Care Act works.

There are a lot of great ideas, and perhaps it is time that, rather than continue to celebrate anniversaries of repeal, that we enter couples counseling sessions today, and we work together in trying to find common ground.

Rather than talking about repealing ObamaCare and going back to a system we know wasn't working, in which 40 million Americans didn't have health care insurance, in which Americans and my constituents and yours were frustrated that, year after year, rates were going up 10, 15, 20 percent--rather than going back to a formula we know didn't work, let's enter couples counseling and work together to make health care work in our country, to talk about a path forward, with the President, with Democrats, with Republicans, with Independents, to ensure that these cost increases that have been epidemic the last couple of decades come to an end, that we can extend coverage to more American families, that we can ensure that the quality of health care that is our Nation's pride can continue to be available to Americans, regardless of their economic background.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Isn't that wonderful? Isn't this great that the President has made 19 changes to improve the Affordable Care Act to make it work?

You know what? That is what a marriage takes. That is what has helped the Affordable Care Act withstand the 50th vote to repeal it here in the House. Had the President been inflexible--just like in a marriage, if one partner is inflexible, it would have been a lot harder to survive 50 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Here, we are celebrating the golden anniversary of repeal votes, 50 votes.

But thanks to the President's flexibility with 19 changes, hopefully, there are more along the way to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care:

That no American faces pricing discrimination or is kept out of a plan because of a preexisting condition;

That people can move between employers;

That somebody can leave a large company to be an entrepreneur and have a startup without worrying about losing their health care if they have a preexisting condition;

Making sure that young Americans, as they are trying to find a job or working part time, can stay on their parents' plan;

Making sure that Americans have a real choice in the exchanges that choose between multiple providers.

These were some of the elements that I think the American people want to keep and one of the reasons that this health care act has not only withstood 50 votes to repeal and is celebrating its golden anniversary, but will survive the next 50 votes if the House Republicans choose to have them to try to appeal the Affordable Care Act.

The American people want to see changes to make it work. We applaud the President for the 19 changes he made. We encourage him to use the discretion that we rightly give him under the Affordable Care Act to help make it work.

We encourage the discretion at the State level that many Governors, like the Governor of Kentucky and others, have shown to make the Affordable Care Act work in their State.

We applaud the fact that there are over $200 billion of deficit reduction in the Affordable Care Act. If we can find additional savings and replace lost revenue, we are certainly open to that discussion. So I rise in celebration of having withstood 50 repeal votes. We are ready for the next 50.

We use these opportunities to highlight the American people on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and to say that we are ready to have a real discussion with Republicans, to exert our legislative privilege, to make changes, and in the absence of that, we applaud the President in using the abilities that we give him under the act to help make sure the Affordable Care Act truly makes health care more affordable for American families.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

This bill--this 50th anniversary--golden anniversary of ObamaCare repeals here in the House--50th vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, gutting mental parity, health parity, gutting protection for Americans with preexisting conditions, went through no hearings, no markups, no amendments that we are allowed to discuss or debate or vote on here on the floor of the House. This is not the process for improving the quality of health care for American families.

The American people have made it clear they want this marriage to last. They want to make it work. They know it requires hard work. The President has made 19 wonderful changes to the law.

I am not a constitutional lawyer. If there are folks on the other side who want to sue the President, who think that he did something contrary to the law we passed, they are certainly welcome to sue. I believe that the President was given broad discretion under the law to make it work.

I hope that this legislative body takes up the gauntlet and makes the changes we need to make the Affordable Care Act work. Any marriage takes effort. Here, we have a marriage between the Affordable Care Act and the American people, and 50 votes to repeal it are not going to break up that marriage.

It is a stronger marriage than that because the American people have voted on it. They didn't elect a Presidential candidate who wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They didn't elect a Senate that wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

So here we are, and we are welcome to have another 50, 100, 200 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act; or we can get to work on an open process, letting Members of both parties offer floor amendments. This rule allows no floor amendments.

Having a markup in committee, having hearings in committee about how we can deliver better health care value to the American people will make sure affordable care is available to every American family and affordable for small businesses, to make America more competitive.

But instead of going through an open process, encouraging ideas from Republicans and Democrats to make health care work in our country, we are presented with the 50th vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In the absence of meaningful improvements and legislation, the President is using the authority that we gave him under this bill to make the changes that he needs to make, to make sure the Affordable Care Act works.

This body can reassert itself and take back its prerogative whenever we want by passing commonsense bipartisan bills to improve the Affordable Care Act, but it truly is hypocritical to criticize the President out of one side of one's mouth for making changes that actually improve the law and make it work better, when here in this body we are refusing to make some of those same commonsense changes.

I hope that if people think that there was authority of the law that exceeded, they are welcome to work that out in the courts. That is what the court is for, to settle the differences of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches; but I hope, more important, because the American people care about affordable health care, that this body is willing to take up some of those improvements that we can make, to make sure that this marriage can endure for the next 50 votes as well.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, make no bones about it. The individual mandate is a linchpin of RomneyCare--or whatever you would like to call it--modeled on, in fact, the insurance reforms in Massachusetts. This component is critical to ensuring that people with preexisting conditions are not discriminated against in pricing in the exchange. It is important to make sure that we have a younger, healthier risk pool in the exchange to bring down rates for all Americans.

If this bill were to become law, which it won't--it is simply the 50th repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the golden anniversary of repeals--the entire affordable care structure, including the pricing in the exchange, would go up for American families, and it would devastate health care reform. This is not a bill that has support from the President. It is not a bill that has support from the proponents of the Affordable Care Act. It doesn't make the Affordable Care Act better. It is, in fact, the 50th repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

I was on the Education and Labor Committee, as it was called at the time, two Congresses ago. My colleague from Texas talked about the process under which the health care bill was written. We did have a substantial markup. There were other committees: the Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee. My committee was one of the committees that it was reported out of, and there were other committees it was not reported out of.

This was an amazing process of writing this bill over the period of a year. In fact, in our Democratic Caucus meetings, we even, essentially, functioned as a committee of our entire Caucus, where we went through the bill page after page, and we made suggestions. There were a number of bills that were written by Republicans that were included in the Affordable Care Act, and there were amendments that I was involved with that were included. Like in any legislative process, some that I advocated for were not included in the final bill.

Unlike this bill, which had no hearing and no markup in any form--because the gentleman from Texas is right. This bill number came from the Senate, and that is the normal process around here. We sometimes have bills from the Senate we approve, and sometimes they originate here and go over there. So this bill number and this title came from something else, and they approved it in reconciliation.

Yet the Affordable Care Act--the bill that led to it--went through my committee. I remember being up until, really, I think, 7 o'clock in the morning. We went straight through the night, under Chairman Miller, offering a number of amendments, some passing and some not. Sometimes I was on the prevailing side, sometimes not. We had a lively discussion over amendments from Democrats and Republicans, some of which made it into the final bill and some of which didn't. That is the legislative process.

To somehow compare that to the legislative process around this bill is like night and day. So, although the gentleman from Texas is technically correct--the bill number was a reconciliation from the Senate that the House concurred in and sent back with some changes--the work that went into forming that bill had countless hearings and had several markups, including one that I participated in and offered amendments in and voted for and against amendments from both sides of the aisle in.

We are where we are. We would love to see the Affordable Care Act go through a process now. Again, why not allow amendments under this rule? Why not allow Republicans or Democrats, who have ideas to make health care more affordable, to offer them now to the floor? If they would pass, then they would move on to the Senate.

Instead, we have a narrowly focused Affordable Care Act repeal that makes health care less affordable for American families by leading to a risk pool in the exchanges that is less healthy and older. We need to ensure that young people are part of the exchanges. Young people want to have insurance, and they want to have affordable insurance. Let's make sure they have a way to do that in the exchanges. This bill would repeal that.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. BURGESS. Mr. Speaker, seeing no other speakers on my side, I continue to reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. POLIS. To the gentleman from Texas, I say it is possible I will have one more speaker. If I see her arrive, I will yield to her. Otherwise, I am prepared to close, and I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, this week, the number of people who lost their unemployment benefits as a result of Congress' failing to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program has climbed to 2 million Americans. If we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the rule to bring up legislation that would restore unemployment insurance and provide much-needed relief to countless families across the country as well as to stimulate our economy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of the amendment in the Record, along with extraneous material, immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Colorado?

There was no objection.

Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I do urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question and to vote ``no'' on the underlying bills.

We could be doing a lot of important work here in the House rather than to have, I think, what both sides would agree is a purely symbolic 50th vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, unless there are, perhaps, some who think ``50'' is the magic number. I think anybody who has a degree of political sense realizes, if the other 49 didn't go anywhere, this one is very unlikely to go anywhere. Rather than proceed with something that isn't going anywhere and that gives the Democrats once again the opportunity to talk about how important it is to make health care more affordable--and the American people overwhelmingly want health care to be fixed, not repealed--we could be doing a lot of important things that the American people actually want this body to do.

Let's talk about immigration reform.

There is a bill that passed the Senate with Democrats and Republicans--68 votes. It is rare for more than two-thirds of the United States Senate to come together around a commonsense solution. How did they do that? They did that because the American people want this problem solved. They are sick and tired--and they should be; I am, too--of having over 10 million people illegally in this country. In my district, there are tens of thousands of people who are there illegally. We don't even know because there is no way to even count. President Obama has deported over 2 million people at an enormous cost to taxpayers--$10,000 to $20,000 per deportation. That is how much it costs taxpayers--you and me, Mr. Speaker.

Guess what? There is a bipartisan solution supported by the law enforcement community, supported by the business community, supported by the technology industry, supported by both the agriculture industry--farmers and farmworkers--and supported by business and labor, supported by the faith-based community, supported by over 75 percent of Americans across the political spectrum, supported by a majority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats and a majority of Independents. That bill is ready.

There is a bipartisan House version, H.R. 15. Let's bring that forward under a rule. That bill would have the votes to pass tomorrow if we brought it forward. We could send it to the President. We could reduce the deficit by over $100 billion, increase our GDP, create hundreds of thousands of jobs for American citizens, as the bill has been scored. Finally, we could secure our borders so we could have control over who comes and goes, both people and illicit products. That is what the American people want. Let's get that bill through rather than celebrate yet another empty anniversary for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

I strongly suggest that my colleagues start bringing forward bills that the American people want to see pass. If we can bring forward immigration reform with bipartisan support and get it out of this body and to the President's desk, the American people will start to improve their opinions of this institution. When I see the polls and they say, oh, 15 percent approval is what Congress has--or 12 percent--it is really no wonder because it is a little bit like a broken record around here. They are, frankly, sick and tired of our every week, it seems like, repealing the Affordable Care Act and making health care more expensive for the American people. They don't want to see us talking about golden rings and 50th anniversaries of votes. They want to see us solving problems.

We offer the Speaker and the majority leader the opportunity to do that. We welcome the Republican immigration principles. There are ample grounds to work on a bipartisan solution based on H.R. 15 or on another bill that encapsulates those principles that the Republicans laid down on which we can find common ground so as to solve a very real problem, to grow our economy, to reduce our deficit, to secure our borders, and to ensure that America remains competitive in the global economy. I challenge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reach a solution on that issue and to really move forward with regard to making health care more affordable.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this closed process--this closed rule--that allows no Republican ideas and no Democratic ideas to come forward, to enter this discussion. I urge my colleagues to defeat the previous question so the Democrats can bring forward the unemployment insurance bill, and I also encourage my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the underlying bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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